2008 Dodge Charger R/T
2008 Dodge Charger R/T. Click image to enlarge


Review and photos by Michael Clark

Photo Gallery:
2008 Dodge Avenger

You lookin’ at me?

There appears to be a little bit of De Niro in the flanks of the Dodge mid-size selection. Maybe even a little bit of classic superhero, according to the propaganda. “Protecting you from the sinister sameness of typical mid-size sedans,” states the brochure. Does this mean that the Toyota Camry’s alter ego is actually Lex Luthor? Great Caesar’s ghost! While you Marvel at that conundrum, enter the R/T edition of the Avenger, AKA tough-guy Sebring. With a starting MSRP of $27,395, the Avenger R/T hopes to get your attention with a mighty 3.5-litre, 235-horsepower V6, in a price bracket normally reserved for Bangers of Four. Let’s see if the innards get the positive attention of my Flying Fickle Finger of Interior Debate.

2008 Dodge Charger R/T
2008 Dodge Charger R/T
2008 Dodge Charger R/T. Click image to enlarge


Cabin

Controls

Welcome to Dodge Charger Redux. The steering wheel gets manual tilt and telescope, with the Mopar-issue audio controls mounted on the rear of the spokes. It may seem strange to go this route, but a few “oops” as to which button does what will be quickly undone by rote. Cruise control uses the expected mini-stalk, inset at the four o’clock position.

The New Chrysler is still the same as the Old Chrysler, in its incessant use of white-face gauges, which still look like someone shining a flashlight through a piece of paper in the wee small hours of the morning.

2008 Dodge Charger R/T
2008 Dodge Charger R/T
2008 Dodge Charger R/T
2008 Dodge Charger R/T
2008 Dodge Charger R/T
2008 Dodge Charger R/T. Click image to enlarge

If you opt for base equipment, you are consistently reminded of where the screens on the gauge panel would be for the Electronic Vehicle Information Centre. That would be the two black hole voids in the centre and left-hand gauge panel cavities.

Headlamps are left-hand stalk controlled, with auto setting, and an ingenious pull feature to illuminate the front fog lamps. Exterior mirrors are break-away style, power-positioned, with toasty heat for the frosties. Power windows receive driver-side auto lift and descent. Trunk release is to the left of the driver, up high on the dash for easy vandal smash-and-pop-and-grab access.

Three-dial HVAC controls boast auto temperature setting, and are easy to understand and actuate. The corporate Mopar sound head units like to tease you with what you don’t have on board, such as the roughed-in UConnect Bluetooth connectivity system. On the up side is the existence of an MP3 jack.

Convenience

You would think top-line would mean, well, top-line teasers, such as the ingenious heated/cooled centre cupholder. You’ll have to add the $850 Premium Convenience Group to get it, which also includes remote start, rear cargo organizer, and the info bits to illuminate those dead gauge panel screens. Break it down, and this bump is an outright bargain.

The centre console cupholder does get bladder-style cinchers, with good depth for the take-out java. The rubber bladder insert does not appear to be removable. There is the Mopar Chill Zone box, cooled via the HVAC. It’s mounted above the average-sized glove box. Beneath the HVAC controls is a 12-volt DC plug-in, and a gully of sorts to contain the bits you might plug in, with a hard, non-removable tray. The top of the console box slides for comfort. There is an upper storage tray and a larger lower compartment, with 12-volt powerpoint, removable felt material flooring, and coin organizer. On the dash, at the extreme left, is an open cubby for cell phones or wallets.

Front and rear passengers get aimable LED lamps, with an opaque lens. The reason it’s opaque probably has to do with the fact that you turn them on or off with your grubby fingertip; either way, it works. Front and rear doors receive side pockets, with bottle provisions in the rear. The driver’s side seat receives a rear storage pocket, while the passenger side seatback flips forward, with an indent perfect for workspace, or for long-item hauling. The centre rear armrest has two cupholders, with reasonable rubber tab cinch. A diminutive cubby exists on the rear of the centre console. The 60/40 folding seatbacks achieve respectable angles for cargo, as well as a good-sized cavity pass-through. Visors boast lighted vanities, as well as the ability to slide for side window shade.

2008 Dodge Charger R/T
2008 Dodge Charger R/T. Click image to enlarge

Seats

Driver’s position gets eight-way power, with a poke-ow!-quit it manual lumbar lever. The leather guts get two-step heated butts for driver and front passenger.

Fit and finish

Tolerances are tight, creaks and rattles non-existent. Now if we can only get the New Chrysler to realize that not every stitch of internal plastic has to double as a nail file, the New Chrysler won’t become the Whatever Happened to Chrysler. As for leather seats, the material is some of the worst on the market. I’ve seen and felt leatherette that trumps it. Mind you, you don’t have to pay anything extra for it at the R/T level. Some people might want to for a premium leather group.

Safety

2008 Dodge Charger R/T
2008 Dodge Charger R/T. Click image to enlarge

The Avenger line gets dual frontal seat-mounted side pillows, and curtains fore and aft. The Avenger scores five stars for frontal impact, according to crash tests by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Driver’s side impact gets five stars, with a concern due to the door unlatching during the test. Rear passenger side impact rates four stars.


Spare/trunk/cargo

It’s an ample cavity for the Avenger, though a trunk lid finisher is long overdue. The emergency doughnut spare gets changed out for you, for five years or 100,000 kilometres of Roadside Assistance service.


Engine


2008 Dodge Charger R/T
2008 Dodge Charger R/T. Click image to enlarge

The Three-Five isn’t a terrible fit, especially with the plastic cover removed for servicing. All fluid levels are easy to access, as are the headlamp bulbs. Time to lose the Safety Yellow hood bar, and spring for some hydraulic struts.


Clarkey Rating

It’s easy to pick at some of the Avenger’s shortcomings, until you start to realize just how much you’re getting for the cake. A V6 punch can make you forget about some of the trim issues. For those tired of the generic jellybean, this baby Charger has some definite charm. Four stars.

Happy Holidays! See you in the new year, with the 2008 Smart Fortwo.

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